Aloe vera is mildly toxic to dogs and should not be consumed by them. Small amounts may not affect your pet, but larger amounts or repeated consumption may cause aloe vera poisoning.
What is Aloe Vera Poisoning?
Aloe vera contains a chemical called saponin, which is a bitter-tasting, plant-derived organic chemical that is mildly toxic when ingested.
It is found on the inner skin of the aloe vera plant leaf, also known as “the latex.”
When your dog eats aloe vera, its body metabolizes the saponins which interact with the natural bacteria found in the intestinal tract. This increases mucus and water in the colon creating a laxative effect, which might cause your dog to reach a dangerous level of dehydration.
The chemical reaction caused by saponin ingestion in larger quantities may result in low blood sugar and a subsequent breakdown of red blood cells.
This condition is especially dangerous and requires immediate medical intervention, as it may lead to coma or death.
The gel and the latex of the plant also contain a chemical called aloin. Aloin may be used by humans for its natural laxative effects, but should not be consumed by animals as it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and skin irritation to pets that are allergic to latex.
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Symptoms of Aloe Vera Poisoning in Dogs
Aloe vera is only mildly toxic to your dog. In most cases, this means your pet will vomit and experience diarrhea.
However, large quantities or constant exposure can lead to more serious problems, including dehydration, seizures, and death, so bringing your dog to the vet is still recommended.
Keep an eye out for the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain or bloating
- Abnormal heart rate
- Dark urine
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessive drooling
- Excessive vomiting
- High body temperature (hyperthermia)
- Lethargy or fatigue
- Loss of coordination
- Severe diarrhea
- Shaking or seizures
- Skin irritation
- Urinary problems
If you suspect your dog ate aloe vera, we recommend seeking your veterinarian’s advice. Even in mild cases, they might want to see your pet to establish the potential risk firsthand.
Causes of Aloe Vera Poisoning in Dogs
Dogs often avoid eating aloe vera plants because of their bitter taste, but many have pica or choose to compulsively eat undesirable or inedible substances.
Dogs may experience aloe vera poisoning from eating a significant amount of repeated consumption of aloe vera plants or products, or from constant or heavy exposure to aloe vera products in their environment.
Since constant supervision is not always realistic, the best way to prevent your dog from consuming aloe vera plants is to ensure any plants in your home or garden are inaccessible to the animal.
Be sure to fence off outdoor plants and place indoor pots containing aloe vera on high shelves to preclude access.
If you personally witness your dog eat a copious amount of aloe vera or they exhibit symptoms that indicate possible ingestion, we recommend contacting your veterinarian so they may treat your pet right away.
Treatment of Aloe Vera Poisoning in Dogs
Treatment may vary based on your veterinarian’s diagnosis and how much your dog consumed or is suspected to have consumed. The first step is usually to induce vomiting to purge residual contaminants from your dog’s system.
To fully decontaminate your dog, the vet may perform a procedure called “gastric lavage,” which involves pumping the dog’s stomach to fully clear toxic contents from within. Your veterinarian will administer IV fluids to your dog to ensure they do not dehydrate and oxygen.
Activated charcoal is commonly used, as it bonds to molecules of aloe vera that might remain inside your dog’s gastrointestinal tract and renders them innocuous as they are evacuated through your dog’s bowels.
Once you’re finished at the vet, it’s important to monitor your pet and report anything unusual to your veterinarian immediately.
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Can I Use Aloe Vera Gel Topically for My Dog?
Absolutely. Aloe as a topical treatment is excellent for itchiness, redness, flaky skin, eczema, and hot spots. Manufacturers remove the aloin during processing, which means your dog may lick the lotion or gel with little to no risk of consequence.
Aloe vera may also be found in many moisturizing or sensitive skin formula shampoos. Although these products are generally non-toxic, we recommend a thorough rinse after application.